By Lindy Keyser
Special to the Press
At the end of every school year, the Roger’s Middle School PTO hosts a field day for the students. This year, the afternoon of fun and games was themed "Team Cooper" and represented much more than the anticipation of summer break.
In early February 12-year-old Cooper Anderson, the inspiration for this year’s theme, was diagnosed with a rare type of brain cancer called gliomatosis cevebri. The three months that ensued were consumed by hospital visits, surgeries and elaborate tests, but Tuesday wasn’t about any of that. Tuesday was about the school and the community that has rallied around Cooper Anderson and the big grin on his face as he spent the afternoon among his friends.
"When we planned this event we weren’t even sure that he’d feel up to coming," said PTO member, Sloan Ladehoff. "We are all so glad that he is here."
Ladehoff, with the help of several parent volunteers, spent more than six weeks coordinating the event in Cooper’s honor. Students, parents and teachers sported t-shirts and bracelets that read "Team Cooper" and had his nickname, "Coop," painted across their cheeks.
"He actually designed the t-shirts and bracelets himself," Ladehoff said. Grey is the color representative of brain cancer and Cooper chose to use a black font so that the boys would want to wear the t-shirts as well.
His day began in the Cannonball Blaster with Mrs. Holly Ferguson, the school’s principal. Jumper Bee in Plano donated the Cannonball Blaster, as well as a number of other inflatables, for the event. Between trips down the slide and races on inflatable ducks, students visited with Cooper in his comfortable chair at the side of the gym.
"He hasn’t been in school since January 21," Myra Anderson, Cooper’s mother, said. "I try to bring him by for lunch sometimes, but this is still a great opportunity for him to spend time with friends that he hasn’t seen in a while."
Roger’s students signed cards for Cooper during their field day. A favorite activity; though, perpetuated a recent phenomenon where supporters spelled out Cooper’s name with a variety of objects. These included wrenches and tires, cowboy hats and bandanas and even a fire truck and fire hoses. On Tuesday, the students creatively wrote Cooper’s name using a variety of craft items.
"That is something that has made Cooper really happy," Sloan said. "People from all over have spelled out his name with different items. Today we’re taking pictures of each of them and putting them together into a book."
These acts of kindness have overwhelmed Cooper’s mother, who says that she is constantly amazed by not just her friends and neighbors but by the compassion shown by absolute strangers toward her little boy.
"They say you don’t know how many friends you have until you go through something hard," she said. "I just can’t believe these people I have never even met are donating their time and their energy to make Cooper happy."
To keep friends, neighbors and strangers alike in the know on Cooper’s condition, Anderson has maintained both a Facebook page and a Caring Bridge site. On the Team Cooper Facebook page, Anderson posts brief updates and friends fill the news feed with pictures and words of support for Cooper. At www.caringbridge.org/visit/Cooper2000, Anderson creates lengthier blog posts describing such adventures as Cooper’s Make a Wish trip to New York City.